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College of Physicians and Surgeons

Chicago, Illinois



1903 and 1904 catalogs are available through Internet Archive.  The Chicago Tribune and the Inter Ocean carried some school news.  University of Illinois Yearbook, the Illio, is available online.  The college published a medical journal, The Plexus, which contained school news as well as scholarly articles.  The seal is from the 1899 Illio.

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College of Physicians and Surgeons was founded by five Chicago physicians, headed by A. Reeves Jackson, who served as the first president, opening on September 26, 1882 with 100 students and 26 professors.  School ads show an enrollment of 235 in 1896 and 579 in 1900.  Flexner lists 517 students in 1909.  The 1899 Illio shows 90 medical school graduates, 49 of whom were from Illinois. The class included five women. 


In 1882 entrance requirements were only a high school diploma or its equivalent.  The Flexner Report noted that this requirement was “loosely interpreted.”  The original graduation requirement was only two years of classes. By 1878 three years were “recommended but not required.”  The 1893 catalog shows that the program had been extended to four years.


Students gained clinical experience at the Cook County Hospital as well as at their own University Hospital and dispensary.


The founding chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society was formed in 1902 at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.  The Illio shows chapters of Nu Sigma Nu and Phi Rho Sigma medical fraternities.  Plexus shows Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. activity as well as a Junior Ball, Senior Dance, and various banquets and parties.

In 1897 the college was leased to the University of Illinois, becoming “nominally” the Medical Department of the University.  Flexner terms the arrangement only a “contractual relationship.”  The University apparently was reluctant to handle the expenses of a medical school and in 1909 refused to pay at all.  In 1913 the alumni association of the medical school bought up its stock and gave them to the university.  With this transaction, College of Physicians and Surgeons passed into history.

Bricks and Mortar

The new building at 813 Harrison Street opened shortly after classes began in 1882.  The site had been chosen because of its proximity to Cook County Hospital.  Measuring 70 X 100 feet, the four-story Queen Anne style building was faced in Lemont stone and featured a 100-foot bell tower.  The basement had a student cafeteria, but it also held a morgue with a refrigerator capable of holding 100 cadavers.  The dispensary with five clinic rooms took up the entire first floor; there was a large lecture hall on the second.  The third floor held the library and three laboratories; an amphitheater seating 450 students took up the fourth floor.   In 1900 The Chicago Daily News reported that flirtations between the medical students and the West Division High School girls had become such a problem that the high school was moved to another location.

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The 1892 catalog reported that a six-story annex had been added so that laboratories could be moved from the main building and that the dispensary would also be moved to a new hospital being built at the corner of Lincoln and Congress streets. 


In 1901 the original building burned, and classes were moved to the recently purchased West Division High School.

(Left) The 1892 building with the annex.  Image from Views of the University


            School colors: Red and Yellow

            Team name: Doctors

Physicians and Surgeons played football between 1895 and 1910.  The Doctors played the University of Illinois seven times (one victory), but their relationships with the university was such that some Doctors occasionally played for the Illini.


Early on the Doctors played a big time schedule of schools that later were part of the Big Ten Conference.  They also played Notre Dame nine times.  Their schedule included a number of smaller programs in the Chicago area, including yearly games with Rush Medical College,  Chicago Dental College, and DePaul. 


The academic demands of medical school prevented P.&S. teams from enjoying much success.  On several occasions newspapers reported  that the Doctors were heavy, but lacked training.


Beginning in 1901 newspapers show some baseball games against area teams such as Northwestern.  The Plexus has articles on an intramural basketball program for women.

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1897 P.&S. football team.  Image from the 1899 Illio, courtesy of

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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